Media - Solar Citizens

Media Releases

25 billion reasons for Ministers to support consumer energy reform

Eyes are on the Energy and Climate Change Ministerial Council (ECCMC) meeting this Friday in Perth, where consumer advocacy group Solar Citizens hopes to see the start of much-needed consumer solar energy policy and regulation reform. 

 

“If we are to maximise solar value and continue to lower household power bills, we need Australia’s governments to act on smarter technical policy and regulation” said Solar Citizens National Director Heidi Lee Douglas.

 

“The energy market rules were written in the interests of large industrial players, which made sense when electricity was primarily produced by large coal plants. But we are partway through a transition that will see cheaper and cleaner renewables take over energy production, with rooftop solar as the largest combined source of renewable energy. 

 

“Millions of Australian households and businesses have invested $25 billion in renewable energy over the past decade. They have collectively installed enough rooftop solar to power more than 3 million homes. The energy regulators urgently need to rewrite the rules to benefit households and businesses, and not just big industry”.

Government support needed to unlock untapped solar potential and shore up affordable energy in NSW

12 September 2023: The rooftop solar potential of social housing in NSW could reach up to 650 Megawatts (MW), according to new research commissioned by Solar Citizens, showing the untapped potential of rooftop solar capacity of social housing in NSW. 

The modelling produced by the Australian PV Institute and the University of New South Wales shows that rooftop solar for social housing would provide energy bill relief for some of the state's most vulnerable energy users, with an average saving of $860 per year per household, whilst securing the state’s electricity supply. 

“This is the low-hanging fruit – the Government can decide to roll-out solar for social housing  from tomorrow as they own much of the stock themselves, and have willing partners in the not-for-profit community housing sector,” National Director of Solar Citizens, Heidi Lee Douglas, said. 

The NSW government recently released its long awaited energy review which highlighted the need for more clean and cheap renewable energy for NSW in the face of coal-fired power stations such as Eraring coming to the end of their economic life. The review highlighted the role rooftop solar has to play in unlocking affordable energy, as it can be rolled out rapidly and the cost benefits go directly to households, rather than big businesses. 

The modelling has been backed by community housing organisation BaptistCare NSW & ACT and Sydney independent MP Alex Greenwich.

“Rolling out solar on social housing would save low-income households and average $860 per year, whilst contributing cheap clean energy back to the grid, and providing additional grid security benefits if backed by batteries networked through a Virtual Power Plant,” Douglas said.

“The Government should be maintaining its own assets and taking responsibility for the thermal comfort and the cost-of-living faced by their tenants. Low-income households would be saving around $860 each year” 

“This is yet more evidence that household solar and batteries will provide clean, cheap energy and provide the energy security needed to close old, dirty coal plants like Eraring, saving the NSW government hundreds of millions of dollars each year.”

In April, the Federal Government offered states and territories $300 million nationally for energy upgrades to social housing (including residential solar and batteries) if they co-contribute, both Queensland and the Victorian Governments have committed to making co-contributions to tap into the fund. Several organisations across housing and climate will be looking to the NSW Government to make an announcement at the state budget on Tuesday 19 September. 

Key insights:

  • A social housing rooftop solar roll-out could generate 769 Gigawatt-hours (GWh) of electricity annually, constituting roughly 1.1% of the total annual generation within the National Electricity Market.
  • A social housing rooftop solar roll-out could offset approximately 10.6 Megatonnes of greenhouse gas emissions over its 20-year operational life.
  • Rooftop solar for social housing would provide energy bill relief for some of the state's most vulnerable energy users. Average savings of $860 per year per household. 
  • A program to meet the solar potential of social housing in NSW would create 619 job opportunities for a period of 5 years.
  • Around 150,000 households would save an average of $860 each year.
  • An initial investment of $532 million would be matched by bill savings within 4.2 years, with average payback periods for individual systems of less than four years for separate houses, 3.5 years for semi-detached houses, and 5.5 years for apartments. Solar installations would continue to generate clean, cheap energy beyond the payback period, for the estimated 20 year lifespan of the asset.
  • Mount Druitt, Liverpool, Fairfield, Campbeltown and Granville are the five State Electoral Divisions with the highest solar potential for social housing in NSW. Realising the solar potential of social housing would have particular impacts in areas of Western Sydney that are also affected by trapped heat and thermal discomfort. 

Robyn Evans, BaptistCare Community Services & Housing General Manager, said: 

"As a community housing provider, BaptistCare NSW & ACT sees firsthand that families and individuals living in social and affordable housing are amongst the most vulnerable in our community to the impacts of climate change and the rising cost of living.  

Solar deployment for tenants in BaptistCare’s 709 households across NSW could reduce electricity bills, enhance climate resilience, and support a just shift to net zero. 

With limited funding or access to household energy upgrade mechanisms, BaptistCare can’t push forward with installing solar on any of our existing 14 housing sites. We encourage the NSW Government to move promptly and commit to contributing to the Federal Government’s energy upgrades program to ensure community housing providers are not locked out of these essential upgrades. 

Social and affordable housing tenants rely on community housing providers who manage more than 54,000 social and affordable housing properties in NSW to give them access to solar and renewable energy to reduce electricity bills. 

The longer we wait, the more expensive this will become. Retrofitting suitable properties now rather than in many years' time is cost-effective for Governments and will see immediate results, including saving our tenants up to $860 annually.” 

Sydney independent MP Alex Greenwich, said:

"This report shows we can future proof the energy efficiency of social housing, reduce power bills and create jobs. This is a win win." 

 

[ENDS]

 

Full report available here.

 

Media Contacts: 

Jemimah Taylor, 0478 924 425 or [email protected] 

Joel Pringle, 0406 435 290 or [email protected]

 

Background

In NSW, 274,766 people (3.4% of the population) live in 160,628 dwellings owned by social and community housing providers. 

As of July 2023, 6,700 of these households had access to rooftop solar, largely through the NSW Land and Housing Corporation (LAHC)’s solar programme which has installed solar on 7% of LAHC’s dwellings.

The recently released Land and Housing Corporation Sustainability Strategy set the priority of increasing solar installations to 30% of housing stock, from the current 7%. This will require government investment to achieve. 

The Commonwealth Government has required that States and Territories co-contribute to access $300 million nationally for energy upgrades to social housing (including residential solar and batteries) under the Household Energy Upgrades Fund. So far the Queensland and Victorian Governments have committed to making co-contributions. The NSW Government has not made a public statement.

The lights will stay on report by Climate Energy Finance highlighted an accelerated roll-out of rooftop solar and battery storage - including for social housing, as part of the alternative to paying between $200-400 million per year to keep the coal-fired Eraring Power Plant open beyond its economic life. 

Solar Citizens Responds to reports NSW Government will consider extending Eraring Coal Plant

22 August 2023: Heidi Douglas, National Director of Solar Citizens, responds to the reports that the NSW Cabinet will be considering recommendations to extend the life of the Eraring Power Plant. 

“The Minns Government is considering large taxpayer funded hand-outs to the coal-fired power industry, which will lock in higher energy prices for consumers. This is outrageous and short-sighted. 

Energy experts are instead recommending clean, cheap household renewable energy like solar panels and batteries, as well as large scale renewable energy projects to bring down power prices in NSW.

“Industry analysts have estimated that extending the life of Eraring beyond its closure date will cost the Government between $200-400 million per year. 

“The NSW Government is testing the waters for community backlash, because they know that a massive wealth transfer from NSW tax-payers to coal barons is controversial. The decision hasn’t been made, and it’s not too late to change course.

Right now the Federal Government is offering $1 billion for clean household energy upgrades and $300 million to the states for energy upgrades for social housing. The NSW government hasn't agreed to meeting the co-financing requirements and risks leaving this money on the table.

More than 1 in 4 NSW households are already benefiting from solar panels on their rooftops, cutting their energy bills and slashing emissions. And we can quickly roll out more solar by adding batteries. Industry experts have recommended this as the fastest way to meet NSW’s energy needs in the short term whilst large scale renewable projects are brought online. 

“We are urging the Premier Chris Minns to find his way back along the path towards lower emissions and cheaper energy bills by investing in accelerated roll-out of both large and small scale renewables.”

[ENDS]

Media Contact: Heidi Lee Douglas, National Director 0401 092 570

Queenslanders win with new Climate Smart Energy Savers Program

1st August 2023: Queenslanders win with new Climate Smart Energy Savers Program

A new $22 million Climate Smart Energy Savers Program from the Queensland Government has been welcomed by the Power Together coalition of community, environment and faith groups.  

The new program offers rebates of up to $1,000 to buy and install eligible energy-efficient appliances with a four-star rating. The rebates are on offer for solar and heat pump hot water systems, air conditioners, washing machines, dishwashers, dryers and refrigerators. Importantly, higher rebates are on offer for low income households. 

Support for all Queenslanders to access efficient electric appliances, particularly to replace expensive gas appliances, is a key campaign ask of the Power Together coalition which includes the Queensland Conservation Council, Queensland Council of Social Services, Queensland Community Alliance and Solar Citizens.

Solar Citizens National Director Heidi Lee Douglas said: 

“Solar Citizens commends the Queensland government’s new ‘Climate Smart Energy Savers Program’ to help reduce cost of living for Queenslanders. Rebates for more efficient home appliances will help reduce energy consumption and bills, especially when powered with Queensland’s abundant solar energy. 

“Solar Citizens is calling on the state and federal governments to work together ongoing to remove barriers to solar for renters, social housing, apartments, and strata – unlocking more rooftops to generate more cheap, clean energy for all. Affordable clean energy for all must be top of the priority list for the next joint state and federal Energy and Climate Ministers meeting in November.”

QCC Senior Campaigner Stephanie Gray said:

“This is a very welcome announcement by the Queensland Government. 

“Increasing the energy efficiency of Queensland homes is a simple way to slash power bills, bring down emissions and reduce stress on the grid at peak times.”

“We know from Climate Council research that Queenslanders could save more than $800 per year just from swapping out gas hot water for a solar hot water system. 

“With rebates soon to be on offer of $800-$1000 for solar and heat pump hot water systems, this could be a no-brainer decision for many households.

“We’d like to see this program coupled with a well-resourced communication and community engagement campaign so that Queenslanders know to cash in on the opportunity for lower bills and healthier homes.”

Queensland Council of Social Service CEO Aimee McVeigh welcomed the difference the latest rebates would make for Queenslanders, especially those on low incomes.

“Across Queensland, people are really struggling with the cost of living, and energy costs are a major pressure on household budgets,” McVeigh said. 

“Government has a role to play in making sure Queenslanders on low incomes have energy bill relief and a smart way to do this is assistance with the purchase of energy efficient appliances.

“Combined with the increased electricity rebates for seniors and concession card holders, the Palaszczuk’s Government’s latest cost of living package, which helps with the purchase of energy efficient appliances, will bring welcome relief to low-income households across the state.

“We thank Minister Mick de Brenni and the Queensland Government for its continued focus on cost of living, and we look forward to seeing more details around the program.” 

Queensland Community Alliance Lead Organiser Devett Kennedy said: 

“This announcement comes from hundreds of people sharing their own cost-of living stories and taking action through the Power Together coalition in community centres, churches, mosques, multicultural groups and unions.  

“The people this affects are grappling with it every day.  It is great to see the Queensland Government listening and acting on this issue.

“The members of Queensland Community Alliance are united in tackling the cost of living and climate crises together.  This announcement is a key step in Queensland doing that.”

 

[ENDS]

More information about the Power Together coalition can be found on our website: powertogether.org.au.

Media contacts: 

Queensland Conservation Council: Stephanie Gray, 0425 543 006

QCOSS: Tanya Chilcott, 0404 889 010

Solar Citizens: Heidi Douglas, 0401 092 570

QCA: Devett Kennedy, 0467 563 796

Minns Out of Step on Gas: Needs to Reconsider

1 August 2023: Minns Out of Step on Gas: Needs to Reconsider

“In the middle of a cost of living crisis, Premier Chris Minns needs to reconsider refusing to phase out gas in new home builds. The Victorian government estimates phasing gas out of new builds will save households between $1000 and $2200 (with solar installed) off annual energy bills. 

Replacing fossil fuels with clean, renewable energy is better for our hip pockets,  health, and climate. Gas and coal prices are much higher than renewable energy. We have cheap power during the day when solar outbids coal and gas. We urgently need a federal government rebate on home batteries, as there is on solar, to replace expensive gas and coal with cheap, clean energy at night. 

And we need state and federal governments to work together to remove barriers to solar for renters, social housing, apartments, and strata - unlocking more roofs to generate more cheap, clean energy for all.

We applaud the Victorian government’s commitment to phasing out gas in new home developments, as we know it is better for people’s hip pockets and health. Gas cooking in homes is known to contribute to children’s asthma. And under the Paris Agreement, we must be fossil fuel free by 2050. So any home built now with gas will have to have it ripped out in the next few decades. That’s a waste of money. 

Instead of backing himself into a corner with gas, Premier Minns needs to support more clean, cheap renewable energy that future-proofs generations of New South Wales residents to save on energy bills and is better for health and climate.”

[ENDS]

For further comment contact

National Director Heidi Lee Douglas

0401 092 570

Solar slashes power bills but more government support required

5 July 2023: Solar slashes power bills but more government support required

Solar Citizens National Director Heidi Lee Douglas is responding to Energy and Climate Change Minister Chris Bowen's calls for families to cut power bills with rooftop solar:

Rooftop solar can cut household power bills while energy costs are surging, but Energy Minister Chris Bowen needs to provide far more support and subsidies to lower upfront costs and increase access so everyone can benefit from these savings, including low-income households and renters. 

With all state, territory and federal Energy Ministers meeting later this week at the Climate and Energy Ministerial Council, the first thing on the agenda should be nationally consistent policies to install rooftop solar on social housing, expand subsidies for low-income households and increase incentives for solar on private rental properties. 

$1.3 billion was allocated in the Federal Budget for household energy support. This funding should be immediately rolled out to support families struggling with bills right now. 

Households save around $1200 a year with rooftop solar and those savings last for the lifetime of the solar system which might be 10 to 20 years. State and Federal Governments are spending billions on one-off power bill subsidies that are providing essential support right now, but similar investments in rooftop solar would provide savings now and protect families from future increases in electricity prices.

[ENDS]

Media Contact: Heidi Lee Douglas, National Director 0401 092 570

A Positive First Step in the Budget, But QLD Government Must Do More on Renewables and Energy Efficiency: Power Together

13 June 2023: A Positive First Step in the Budget, But QLD Government Must Do More on Renewables and Energy Efficiency: Power Together

The Queensland Budget delivered today has recognised energy bill relief for Queenslanders as key for addressing cost of living pressure and climate action with new funding announcements for renewables and energy efficiency, according to the Power Together coalition.

The Queensland Budget includes:

  • A new $550 energy rebate for all Queensland households and a higher $700 rebate for about 600,000 vulnerable households;
  • A record $19 billion over 4 years to support new wind, solar, storage and transmission;
  • $60 million for a household energy initiatives program; and
  • $10 million for Vulnerable Households Energy Advice Initiatives.

Dave Copeman, Director at Queensland Conservation Council said, “We welcome the state government’s record investment in renewables and energy efficiency, easing cost of living pressures for households across Queensland.

“Now we need to make sure that this investment is rolled out in a way that benefits Queenslanders as soon as possible.

“To build the renewable energy identified in the Budget in the time frame we need, the Government has to accelerate their planning reforms, and transform their community and Traditional Owner engagement to make sure that local communities are designing their own energy future and protecting their nature and cultural heritage.”

“The rebates are significant assistance for Queensland households, families and communities. Now we need to make sure that renters and social housing tenants also get the full benefit of cheaper, cleaner renewable energy and energy efficiency.

“We have the plan for more affordable, cleaner energy and electricity bill relief, and this budget is a significant step towards implementing it.

Heidi Lee Douglas, National Director of Solar Citizens said, “There’s a bright future ahead for Queensland’s economy and communities if the Sunshine State uses cheaper, cleaner energy to power our homes, businesses and economy.

“Rooftop solar provides households with ongoing power savings and reduces the cost of living while energy prices surge. Every Queensland household should have the support it needs to run on cheap, clean solar power instead of burning expensive, polluting fossil fuels.

“The simple truth of the matter is power generated from burning coal is much more expensive than power generated from the sun through solar. Solar is the cheapest source of energy. Currently the Queenslanders who need it most - those living in rentals, and in social housing - are locked out of savings from solar.

“Investment in solar for rentals and social housing completely missed in the Queensland Energy and Jobs Plan. We welcome the $70m Household Energy Initiatives and advice package and urge the Queensland Government to commit further funds to enable access to cheap, clean solar energy for all Queenslanders - and get off coal power sooner rather than later.

“Investment in solar for rentals and social housing creates immediate energy bill savings for householders while we wait for the investment in large scale infrastructure and transmission to come online.”

Aimee McVeigh, QCOSS CEO said, “We welcome the government’s record investment in renewable energy, and the $1.5 billion energy bill relief package, which will make a big difference to household budgets.

“Some Queenslanders on income support will not have to pay anything for their energy bill over the next 12 months, as a result of this cost of living package. This will benefit many Queenslanders who have been choosing to not turn on their lights or heat their homes to save money.

“The Government’s long-term investment in the generation and storage of renewable energy will bring down power prices into the future.”

[ENDS]

Dave Copeman, Heidi Lee Douglas and Aimee McVeigh are available for interview.

Powering Our Future: An action plan for Queensland’s cost of living and climate crises is available here: https://powertogether.org.au/

Media contact: Bron Matherson 0438 844 765

Solar the smart solution for energy price hike of up to 29 per cent on the way for regional QLD

9 June 2023: Solar the smart solution for energy price hike of up to 29 per cent on the way for regional QLD

Households budgets in regional Queensland will be further stretched with the announcement today of an electricity bill rise of up to 29 per cent from July 1, with Solar Citizens calling for urgent government investment in solar as the smart solution.

Under the Ergon determination released today, homes and small businesses in regional Queensland who rely on the provider could have hundreds of dollars added to their power bills from July 1.

Heidi Lee Douglas, National Director of Solar Citizens said, “Too many households and small businesses in regional Queensland will be pushed to the brink by the significant power bill increase announced today and investment in solar is a smart way of bringing energy prices down.

“Regional Queensland householders with solar are already saving hundreds or thousands of dollars per home on their power bills, depending on the size of their solar array.

“Queensland is literally the Sunshine state - so the State Government needs to make sure no one in the regions is locked out of the benefits of harnessing cheap, clean solar energy.

“Every regional Queenslander deserves access to cheap, clean energy from solar. 


“Queensland has some of the best uptake of solar in the country in but people in rented properties and people in social housing are currently locked out of the benefits from solar power.

“Solar Citizens and Power Together are calling on the Queensland Government to commit in next Tuesday’s State Budget to install rooftop solar on social housing and rolling out Virtual Power Plants for 10,000 social homes. We’re also asking for government investment to help instal rooftop solar on 10,000 rented homes across the state, including in the regions.

“Rooftop solar provides households with ongoing power savings and reduces the cost of living while energy prices surge.

“It’s a good investment for governments to provide the support and subsidies needed to make savings from rooftop solar available to as many households and small businesses as possible.

“All Queensland households should be running on cheap, clean solar power instead of burning expensive, polluting fossil fuels,” she said.


Heidi Lee Douglas is available for interview.

Media contact: Jane Garcia (Essential) 0455 111 593

QLD Budget a Massive Opportunity to Ease Cost of Living with Support for More Households to Access Benefits of Renewable Energy, Energy Efficiency: Power Together

6 June 2023: QLD Budget a Massive Opportunity to Ease Cost of Living with Support for More Households to Access Benefits of Renewable Energy, Energy Efficiency: Power Together

The interest rate rise to 4.1 per cent announced today by the Reserve Bank of Australia, combined with further energy bill hikes from July 1, makes it critical for the next Queensland Budget to provide more households access to the benefits of renewable energy and ease pressure on household budgets, according to the Power Together coalition.

The recent Federal budget committed $300 million for the support of energy upgrades and efficiency in social housing, with a challenge for state governments to match them Power 

Together urges the Queensland Government to take up the challenge and commit in the state budget to installing rooftop solar on social housing and the roll out of Virtual Power Plants for 10,000 homes. 

Power Together is also calling on the Queensland Government to provide financial support for:

  • the rollout of solar on at least 10,000 private rental properties; and
  • minimum energy efficiency standards for rental homes.

Heidi Lee Douglas, National Director of Solar Citizens said, “Rooftop solar is one of the cheapest forms of new electricity available today and Queensland households lead the nation with nearly one million rooftop installations.

“No Queensland household should be left behind in the move to cheap, clean solar energy. We need tailored Queensland government assistance to ensure social housing tenants and households who are renters do not miss out energy bill relief from solar.

“Our households should be running on cheap, clean solar power instead of burning expensive, polluting fossil fuels.”

 Dave Copeman, Director at Queensland Conservation Council said, “Queensland’s over-reliance on coal-fired power has helped fuel surging electricity prices. If the Queensland Government is genuine in wanting to deliver a cost of living focussed budget then it must go beyond energy bill rebates and invest more in renewable energy and energy efficiency.

“This Budget is an opportunity for significant investment in renewable energy and energy efficiency that eases the cost of living pressure and reduces emissions while improving people’s living standards.

“The action we need to rapidly cut emissions this decade and tackle the climate crisis is the same action we need to improve affordability for life’s essentials.”

 Aimee McVeigh, QCOSS CEO said, “Many Queenslanders on low incomes are already having to make tough choices between paying their energy bills, putting food on the table and keeping a roof over their head. The interest rate rise announced today will only increase pressure on household budgets and push more people into energy poverty.

“We need urgent government intervention so that Queenslanders on low incomes can share in the benefits of renewable energy.”

[ENDS]

Media contact: Jane Garcia (Essential) 0455 111 593

Power Together’s Powering our Future report is available here: https://powertogether.org.au/

Calls for bipartisan support for Queensland’s new Renewable Energy Target

5 June 2023: Calls for bipartisan support for Queensland’s new Renewable Energy Target

Solar Citizens welcomes news that the Queensland Government has announced a $500 million investment in publicly-owned CleanCo to develop 2.3 GW of new renewable energy generation. 

The funding commitment comes as the Queensland Government releases draft legislation to enact the Queensland Energy and Jobs Plan. The legislation includes:

  • Queensland’s new 70% by 2032, and 80% by 2035 Renewable Energy Targets
  • A commitment to maintaining majority public ownership of the State’s energy assets
  • The Job Security Guarantee and a fund for workers affected by the energy transformation 

“It’s very welcome news that the Queensland Government is enshrining in law more cheap renewable energy, certainty for workers, and a commitment to keep the majority of the State’s energy assets in the hands of Queenslanders,” said Heidi Lee Douglas, National Director of Solar Citizens. 

“At the moment Queenslanders are still being slugged with high power bills caused by globally high coal and gas prices, and rolling outages at Queensland’s ageing coal-fired power stations. Investing in more Queensland-owned solar, wind and storage means we’ll have more protection from global fossil fuel price spikes.”

A report, released by Solar Citizens and the Queensland Conservation Council, found that large-scale solar, wind and storage projects across the Sunshine State brought wholesale power costs down by $25/MWh in 2022, equivalent to nearly $100 per household. The report found that further renewable energy investment would have brought down costs by more than $500 per household.

Solar Citizens is now calling on the Queensland Opposition to support the new Renewable Energy Targets and legislation.

“Queenlanders should have access to clean, affordable renewable energy no matter who is elected next year,” said Ms Douglas.

“In the lead up to the last state election, the Queensland Liberal National Party was planning to scrap the State’s 50% by 2030 Renewable Energy Target. But a lot has changed since then, including Queensland power bills spiralling because of our dependency on coal and gas.

“It was really encouraging to see Opposition Leader David Crisafulli signal on ABC back when the Energy and Jobs Plan was released that he supports the new 70% renewable energy target. 

“Queenslanders are tired of the energy and climate wars. It’s time for bipartisan support for the transition to clean and affordable energy.”

[ENDS]

Media contact: Solar Citizens National Director Heidi Lee Douglas 0401 092 570